Friday, January 12, 2018

Stars in the Dark

The world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around.

You might be thinking this is an editorial in today’s newspaper. And why not? It applies perfectly to what just about anyone with their eyes half-open, a few brain cells firing and a heart that does more than just pump blood must feel. But it might surprise you that this is a quote from 50 years ago. And it could have been London 150 years ago or Paris 250 years ago or Rome 2,000 years ago. And the speaker above? Martin Luther King. In a speech he gave the day before he was taken out. He goes on:

But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that people, in some strange way, are responding.

The stars shine brighter in the dark. He doesn't mean the movie stars, though given the Oscars and Golden Globes these last two years, many of these courageous and good-hearted people are indeed shining brighter. He means the light in all of us that we carry inside, the one that only shines bright when we speak out and are stirred to action on behalf of justice.

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee -- the cry is always the same: "We want to be free."

Yep, you got it right. He’s talking about people from those, according to POTUS (President of Tweeting Unbridled Shame), shithole countries and cities. I felt the 4.4 earthquake in San Francisco last week and I think it was Martin knowing what was coming and rolling over in his grave. Well, Martin and Rosa and Frederick and Medgar and W.E. and Harriet and Sojourner and Malcolm and a long glorious host of our heroic ancestors who came from that distant “sh*thole” continent and saved America’s soul by showing what’s it like to have one.

Every single day of this extraordinary shameful year, the guy keeps showing us he’s even worse than we thought and the bar gets lower and lower and lower yet. And yet he’s having trouble dismantling the nation because of the history of resistance and free speech and our legal system and the courage of all those who are speaking up. Not enough yet and not loud enough, but rising up is a slow process and one that builds slowly its own momentum. Hoping we’ll see some of that in the next women’s march in January.

Meanwhile, join with me in the mantra: “Stars in the dark, stars in the dark…” Theodore Roethke said the same in his poem, “In a dark time, the eye begins to see…”

Dr. King, we had our annual celebration of your work at our school and it had a different tone because of the increased darkness of this last year. We’re not tiptoeing around social justice anymore for fear of insulting people who think differently (or refuse to think at all). It’s not about politics and sullying the neutral ground of school, it’s about teaching the children what common decency looks like in a time when the leader of the land shows so little. We’re not facing fire hoses or Bull Conners’ with clubs, but there is some measure of bravey and courage that is rising up. Stay with us!

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